Your Rights After A Boat Accident In Minnesota
Minnesota is an amazing place to go boating, with access to thousands of beautiful lakes and rivers. Minnesota offers popular water sports, ranging from sailing to kayaking to canoeing to paddle boating. Though these activities can be done safely, boating accidents are unfortunately common. If you or a loved one suffered an injury in a Minnesota boating accident, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries from the at-fault party. If you would like to discuss your case with an experienced Minnesota personal injury lawyer, contact the office of Tyroler Injury Law at 651-259-1113. We strive to protect victims’ rights after a boating accident.
Boating Injury Statistics
According to the American Boating Association, there were 4,168 boating accidents in the United States in 2019, with 2559 injuries and 613 fatalities. In Minnesota in 2020, there were 16 boating fatalities and 90 non-fatal boating accidents, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Some of these accidents were caused by rough and choppy waters, but 26 were caused by collisions with other boat operators. Four were caused by collisions with fixed objects, and ten were attributable to fires or explosions.
Causes of Boating Accidents
While many accidents are unavoidable random acts of nature, many of them are preventable. When boaters, passengers, and rental companies fail to take the proper precautions, accidents can cause victims serious injuries and huge financial strain. Some of the most common causes of boating accidents include:
According to the Boat US Foundation, over half of all boating accidents involve the use of drugs or alcohol. Many people enjoy going out on the water with friends and enjoying a few drinks, but when the operator consumes alcohol while in control of the boat, it can lead to serious consequences for themselves, their passengers, and other boaters on the water.
Operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol exacerbates the condition known as “boater’s hypnosis,” which occurs when a boater is on the water for several hours with prolonged exposure to sunlight, vibrations, and rocking motions. This compounded with alcohol consumption slows the operator’s reaction time and hinders the decision-making ability needed to safely operate a boat. In Minnesota, it is against the law to be in physical control of a motorboat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
While driving a motorboat may seem intuitive, it requires experience to do so safely. Not only is the design and operation of a motorboat different from that of a motor vehicle, but there are also unique procedures boaters must follow to keep everyone on the water safe. A boat operator must understand the proper procedures for docking and undocking the boat, and they should also understand how to interact with other boats, such as how to avoid making wakes in a no-wake zone. Inexperienced drivers can threaten the safety of everyone else on the water.
Speeding is another common cause of accidents. Sometimes boaters are tempted to get up to a high speed on the open waters, but it can be difficult to slow the boat down or control its direction when it’s at a high speed. Speeding can also create wakes, which makes for choppy conditions for other boaters. Make sure to follow all the lake’s regulations while on the water.
Boating accidents can also be caused by mechanical problems. Improperly maintained engines or motors can be hazardous for the driver and passengers, especially if the boat is a rental and the renters are unfamiliar with how to repair or maintain the equipment. When a rental company fails to detect and repair defects in the boats, they may be held responsible for any injuries that result from that defective equipment.
Protecting Your Rights After a Minnesota Boat Accident
Depending on the cause of the boating accident, you may be able to seek compensation from the at-fault party. At Tyroler Injury Law, our experienced boating accident attorneys may be able to help you determine who was at fault and develop a strategy to seek compensation from the correct parties. Some of the parties that may be held responsible for your injuries include:
If you were injured as a passenger due to the careless or reckless behavior of your boat’s operator, you may be able to bring a negligence claim against the driver. To prove that they were negligent, you must show that:
- The driver owed a duty of care
- The driver breached the duty of care
- The breach caused your injuries
- You suffered damages
Generally, every person operating a boat on public water has a duty to behave as a reasonable person would under the circumstances. If your driver was under the influence or engaging in other reckless behavior, you will likely be able to show that they breached their duty of care to their passengers.
Similarly, if you experienced an accident with another driver, you may be able to bring a negligence claim if you can show that the other driver’s conduct fell below a reasonable standard. When a victim is injured due to another person’s negligence, the at-fault party, and their insurer, if any, should be responsible for covering the injured party’s expenses. Some of the damages you may be able to seek from the at-fault driver include:
- Medical bills
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
The Rental Company
When an accident is caused by the rental company’s failure to maintain their boats, the injured party may bring a negligence claim against the rental company. The victim must generally show that the rental company knew or should have known about a defect in the equipment, and by failing to repair it, the rental company caused the injuries from the boating accident. This type of suit can be challenging because you must be able to provide evidence that the rental company knew or should have known about the defect by reasonable inspection. For example, you may need to provide evidence that the rental company failed to regularly inspect its boats or do regular maintenance checks.
Rarely, the government may be held liable for failing to repair or warn of a dangerous condition on government-owned property. Generally, the government is protected by sovereign immunity, but under certain circumstances, an injured party may be able to bring a negligence claim against the government agency responsible for maintaining the public waters. Under the Minnesota Tort Claims Act, however, suits against the government regarding water access sites are generally prohibited.
Contact a Minnesota Boating Accident Attorney
At Tyroler Injury Law, we believe in protecting your rights after a Minnesota boating accident. We fight for our clients’ right to recover expenses after suffering an injury that was not their fault. We understand that boating accidents can leave victims with severe physical and emotional strain. Call us at 651-259-1113 to schedule your free consultation.